Hong Kong singer, 11, wins top prize at prestigious competition in Wales

Ella Ng takes solo prize at Eisteddfod in Wales where stars including Pavarotti performed

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 July, 2013, 6:00am

An 11-year-old singer from Hong Kong has wowed the judges at a prestigious singing competition in Wales - the same contest that launched the career of late opera superstar Luciano Pavarotti.

Ella Ng won the solo vocal category for under-12s with her performance of the hymn A Clare Benediction by John Rutter.

Italian tenor Pavarotti was 19 when he entered the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in 1955 and sang with his father in the male choir, which won its section that year. "I joked to my dad and said, 'Next time, you're coming with me so I can follow in Pavarotti's footsteps,'" Ng said yesterday, just hours after returning from Wales.

Ng's mother, Flora, accompanied her to the festival, but her father, Mat, wasn't able to attend due to work commitments. After Ng's winning performance, members of the audience asked her for her autograph and she met a woman who said she had been moved to tears by her voice.

"It made me feel very special when she said that to me, because I didn't think I could do that yet," Ng said.

Others who have gone on to global stardom after appearing at the Eisteddfod include Placido Domingo, Kiri Te Kanawa, José Carreras, Katherine Jenkins, Elaine Paige, Michael Ball and Montserrat Caballé.

Ng very nearly missed her spot in the finals, because she found out about the renowned competition only the day before entries closed.

Competitors must send a recording of a performance to the judges, who select finalists to perform at the festival. So with just hours to learn a new song and record it, Ng and her vocal teacher of seven years, Jeffie Leung, mastered A Clare Benediction.

"She sings with passion and is very expressive," Leung said, adding that on stage, the youngster exuded confidence beyond her years.

Ng, currently studying in Australia, said that during her performance in Wales, her mother was more nervous than she was.

"For me, it's not scary on stage because I'm focused on enjoying the song," she said. "But my mum, who was watching me, was nervous for me.

"I feel happy and relaxed on stage, and I love performing because I can show the audience something and give them a feeling."

Brian Hughes, one of the festival judges and former choirmaster and head of opera at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, said Ng's control of her voice made her performance stand out.

"She is very musical and I would just hope she keeps away from pop music and concentrates on the classical," he said.

That won't be much of a problem for Ng, who says she rarely listens to pop and that musicals and melodies are her passion.

"I just have a better feeling about classical music and the style means I can do more with my voice," she said.

Ng added that despite classical music's reputation as an art form for older people, it was for all ages. "There are different kinds of classical music and some songs can be great for babies, actually," she said.